Toronto

Orlando shooting denounced by openly gay MP of 'largest Muslim community in Canada'

On the day of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, carried out against patrons at a gay club by a man officials say gave explicit allegiance to the militant group ISIS, an openly gay Toronto MP took to Twitter with a message he said "needs to be shared."

'Hate can never be met with hate; hate has to be met with love,' says Liberal MP Rob Oliphant

Openly gay Toronto MP Rob Oliphant was elected by the largest Muslim community in Canada and spoke about the two communities coming together 'in love' in the wake of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando Sunday. 2:46

On the day of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, carried out against patrons at a gay club by a man officials say gave explicit allegiance to the militant group ISIS, an openly gay Toronto MP took to Twitter with a message he said "needs to be shared."

In the hours following the shooting — which saw some 50 people killed and 53 more injured — Liberal Don Valley West MP Rob Oliphant denounced the violence against the gay community.

At the same time, he denounced anyone blaming the violent tragedy on the Muslim community. 

All in a single tweet:

Speaking at a vigil attended by hundreds in Toronto's Church and Wellesley village Sunday, Oliphant elaborated on the connection between the communities.

"While I heard the news and the numbers of those fatalities kept growing in the morning, my body reacted and I had two impulses," he said.

The first he said was to reach out to his gay and lesbian friends and seek solidarity with those who have experienced homophobia.

"But my second response was to reach out to my Muslim brothers and sisters to say hate can never be met with hate; hate has to be met with love... We know better than anyone else that it is by love that we are saved."

Oliphant reiterated his support for the Muslim community Monday on Metro Morning, saying he knew "people would quickly start to blame a community for the actions... of one person."

Oliphant says he reached out to both the gay and Muslim communities after learning some 50 people were killed in an Orlando nightclub. (John Rieti/CBC)

"I have heard often that people think of [the Muslim community] as homophobic and that is not my experience," he told CBC's Matt Galloway. "I have experienced homophobia among Christians, I have experienced homophobia among atheists, among all kinds of people, and, yes, among Muslims. But by and large their acceptance and generosity to me has been huge."

Oliphant also expressed the need for solidarity among the two communities.

"I want to make sure that our two vulnerable communities, the gay and lesbian community as well as the Muslim community, stick together in this to recognize that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that protects me is that charter that protects them," he said.

"Let's embrace each other, let's actually look each other in the eye, let's smile and let's say, 'We're in this together.'"

On Sunday, the National Council of Canadian Muslims echoed that sentiment, saying in a statement, "This horrific tragedy is heartbreaking."

"As Canadians, we stand united against violence and discrimination against any human being," it said. "Hate hurts us all."

Residents back Oliphant 

For Scarborough resident Ahmad Gaied, such a positive message was unexpected but came as welcome surprise.

"I think it makes a heck of a difference," he said. "We're in the middle of Ramadan, our holiest month. By the MP speaking up about our community and by saying he's proud to be elected by the largest Muslim community in Canada; that's something that needs to be celebrated." 

"Those are the things we need to talk about — the facts."

Najeeb Siddiqui has lived in the Don Valley area since 2006 and was a member of Oliphant's riding until it was redrawn last year.

"I really appreciate that he made that comment so quickly," Siddiqui said.

"The Charter of Rights is the fundamental thing that protects us as Muslims, as it protects the LGBT community, Jews... all the minorities. I think he understands where Muslims come from and where Muslims stand."

Premier Kathleen Wynne spoke to hundreds of Torontonians that gathered for a candlelight vigil in honour of the victims of a mass shooting that targeted a gay nightclub in Florida. 1:28

"Most of them are recent immigrants so one might think they kind of bring in biases toward diversity," added Siddiqui.

"But despite that, I think recent immigrants have supported him wholeheartedly for his politics and for his personality because he's a genuinely caring person who wants to make a difference for people in his riding and people in this country."

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